I am an ally in the movement for Black lives, so social and alternative media are my required reading. It’s there – not in the shamefully racist and sensationalistic corporate media – where I find reporting from the streets and movement perspectives from progressive Black leaders. Even if I’m far away from a particular struggle, social and alternative media help me connect the dots to wherever I am. Whether I’m in the grocery store or at a family barbeque, I need to be grounded and hopeful as I engage people around me to support this powerfully important movement.
I’m always glad when I get asked, “Is there anything that could really make a difference?” because there is so much coming from the movement for Black lives.
Looking at the published principles, platforms, and demands of groups leading the movement for Black lives helps me to keep track of the solutions emerging. I can see that, like any movement, different communities and organizations offer slightly different solutions that reflect different situations and perspectives. While each statement has its own emphasis and nuance, there is an organic similarity among solutions rising across this movement moment, an opportunity for deep and lasting systemic and cultural change, with words and ideas echoing among people who may have never even met each other.
Reading through eleven different statements I found common themes, as well as distinct perspectives and exciting differences. The statements I looked at were put out by Ferguson Action, the delegation of young people called to meet with the White House, Color of Change, Center for Social Inclusion, African American Policy Forum, Hands Up United, Safety Beyond Policing, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Organization for Black Struggle, Freedom, Inc., and the Boggs Center. I’m sure there are more statements I haven’t seen yet, so if you know of other published principles, platforms, demands, or proposed solutions from Black-led organizing for Black lives, please share them in the comments. [Note: This blog post was updated on May 21 to include information from the newly-released report SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.]
In these written statements, I found immediate and practical solutions for ending police violence and demilitarizing the police – all presented as part of a much larger vision. For example Ferguson Action’s “Our Vision for a New America” puts forth police-focused solutions as part of a broader call to end all forms of discrimination and fully recognize human rights, for an immediate end to police brutality, for full employment and decent housing, to replace the school-to-prison pipeline with quality education, and to end mass incarceration.
Within the different statements I found a range of police-focused solutions including:
- Document and collect data on ongoing and widespread policing patterns and practices.
- Condition federal funds to police departments on their ending discriminatory policing and adoption of Department of Justice best practices.
- Establish Community Control Over Police (not review boards or community policing) with the power to set priorities, policies and enforce the proper practice of those mandates.
- Provide reparations for victims of police violence (which just became reality in Chicago)
- Release people in pre-trial detention whose bail is below $1,000.
- Release/don’t prosecute individuals who have exercised their rights to assemble and protest.
- Stop the use of policing to fund local governments.
- Cease the power of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to collaborate with local law enforcement agencies.
- Pass the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015, which for the first time, includes a ban on racial profiling based on gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and urging local police departments to adopt and enforce a gender and sexuality inclusive racial profiling ban.
- Enact and enforce a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual harassment and assault of members of the public by police officers.
The solutions articulated in these statements often challenge the systems and institutions of policing by calling for public budgets that transition resources away from policing and toward community needs. Specific proposals I read include:
- Repurpose law enforcement funds to support restorative justice programs and community based alternatives to incarceration, youth jobs programs, public housing resident associations, and other key investments.
- Create Peace Departments.
- Make public transit free (which we should just do anyway but also so people aren’t criminalized for unpaid transit fees).
Voices in the movement for Black lives also include economic and ecological sustainability in their vision. The Boggs Center statement includes solutions such as training local residents to use technology to create sustainable, self-determined communities, creating place-based schools, and investing in fresh food co-ops and community gardens in Black communities. As Movement Generation wrote in 2014, “The current rebellion in the streets of Ferguson begs the question: will we continue to uphold, participate in and suffer the consequences of this violent extractive economy? Or will we completely dismantle the extractive economy while re-building local, living economies that restore & repair our relationship to earth & each other?”
Solutions emerging reflect the new organizing strength of queer and trans Black communities, Black immigrant communities, and of young Black women and girls, all of whom are playing a leadership role in the movement for Black lives. The African American Policy Forum’s report, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, particularly looks at the role of schools in criminalizing Black girls and points toward school-based changes, while the AAPF’s most recent report, SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,”sheds light on Black women’s experiences of police violence in an effort to support a gender inclusive approach to racial justice that centers all Black lives equally.”
The statement of the Black Alliance for Immigration Justice calls for action such as the reunification of Black immigrant families “separated by deportation, unjust profiling in law enforcement practices and also by discriminatory immigration practices.” Freedom Inc. works “in ways that are language-gender-generation and culture-specific to wimmin, gender non-conforming, and youth, in African American and Southeast Asian families– that bring about deep social, political, cultural, and economic change.”
I know that the solutions emerging today reflect the experience, wisdom, and action of those who have collectively sought change for decades even when the national spotlight was not on them. In direct response to the outrage in Ferguson, for example, the St. Louis city council passed a law last month creating a civilian oversight board with the power to review claims of police misconduct, a change St. Louis activists have called for since the 1940s.
I know that specific calls for change in Ferguson have resulted in victories beyond Ferguson, even before the Department of Justice released its horrific report. For example, in the last months of 2014, arrest warrants for minor traffic violations were lifted for 220,000 people in St. Louis. Following suit, the Missouri Legislature just approved a statewide bill removing any municipality’s ability to jail someone for a minor traffic infraction. The collective outrage from Ferguson has led directly to action, to public outcry against using “justice” systems to make money, and to growing demand for solutions that abolish the patterns and practices of structural racism.
I know that the solutions emerging from the movement for Black lives are stepping stones toward a world where Black lives matter.
When I am asked, “Is there anything that could really make a difference?” I tell the white woman in the check out line, or my Ecuadorian-American cousins, that the movement for Black lives is sparking new visions for the future and a bold path to get there.
I tell them that Black communities are coming together to demand local and national changes that end the state violence, criminalization, and disinvestment that destroy Black lives and families.
I quote Alicia Garza of #Black Lives Matter who wrote, “When Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole.” And, “When we are able to end hyper-criminalization and sexualization of Black people and end the poverty, control, and surveillance of Black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free.”
When I am asked, “Is there anything that could really make a difference?” I know the movement for Black lives is generating powerful answers.